Years ago, when my husband and I first started dating, he enabled me with one of the most encouraging tips that has given me renewed strength so many times. He told me that any time I find a penny on the ground, it’s God giving me a hug and reminding me that He’s still with me. Ever since then, I have been amazed at the times I’ve found a penny on the ground. There have been so many instances when I’ve just been having a horrible day, and I’ll look down to find a penny right at my feet. I wish I had counted how many pennies I found while Evan was deployed.
Evan has crazy stories of places he’s found pennies. Believe it or not, he found multiple pennies in the deserts of Afghanistan while on patrol. He told me of one time he was in the field for several days. He was feeling overly discouraged and just wanted so badly to be home with us. He was in the middle of talking with God when he looked down. There, out in the middle of the woods, right next to his boot, sat a couple of pennies. He couldn’t help but smile and thank the Lord. That small encouragement helped get him through the rest of the week.
So, the next time you find a penny on the ground, don’t look at it as JUST a penny. Pick it up and embrace the big hug God is giving you right at that moment.
I had a horrendous nightmare last night. You know, one of those that wakes you up and makes it impossible to go back to sleep. It was one of those nightmares that snuggling up next to my completely zonked husband just didn’t seem to make it all better. So, I roamed the house for nearly an hour, trying to get my mind off the dream. When I finally crawled back into bed, my sweet husband woke up, grabbed my hand, and asked if everything was okay. I told him that I had a horrendous nightmare, and he wrapped his arm around me and pulled me to him. In that instant, I finally felt tired again. There’s so much more comfort in the sleepy embrace of my husband when he does it knowing that something was wrong. I felt safe again, and my mind quickly turned off, allowing me to fall back into a deep sleep.
All my life I have been plagued with nightmares. They never seem to escape me, and I almost always remember them. I still remember dreams I had when I was six years old. They don’t occur as much, but I have noticed that they usually pop up more often during pregnancy and whenever my husband is gone for training or deployment. I’ve often wondered what drives my unusual tendency toward nightmares. I actually wrote an essay about my nightmares in college, for a writing class. So, I figured I’d share that with you all.
Demons of the Night
I had a fear. I like to convince myself it doesn’t exist anymore, but it still plagues me once in a while. It used to paralyze me, both physically and mentally. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t do anything. All I could do was collapse on a windowsill and cry.
I was a short, chunky kid who swam around in hand-me-downs much too big for me. At least, I felt like I was swimming. I always did. If I wasn’t drowning in large clothing, I was drowning in life. Everything seemed too big for me. I wasn’t a brave child by any means, although I acted like it. When people watched me, they thought, “Boy, that girl has gumption.” I appeared brave. I did all the brave things. I was the one to jump off flying swings. I flipped over the high monkey bars. I traversed through the dark rooms to find the light switch on the opposite end. Yet, I was the most afraid, but no one knew.
Anytime my fear arose, it grappled my gut, making me nauseous. My lungs constricted and breathing was arduous. I became light-headed. I felt fragile, but stiff. Inwardly, I couldn’t move. Despite what my body was doing, my mind screamed at me to stop, to run away, to pull myself out of the situation. My body never listened.
All this was due to nightmares. Anything would set them off: a scary movie, darkness, ghost stories, anything. I had a ritual each night. Standing at least three feet from my bed, I squatted down on my little legs, low enough to peek under the bed. When all appeared clear, I leaped toward the bed, wrestling with the covers till I was safely bound between blanket and mattress.
Although I was safe, I wouldn’t shut my eyes. I couldn’t shut my eyes. I couldn’t allow the freakish scenes to begin. I wouldn’t permit my mind to go off into a place beyond my control. I knew that once my weary eye-gates collapsed, my conscience snapped open to a frightful world. No one could rescue me from that place, no one. Not even myself. My nightmares were reality to me. When I physically awakened, my brain continued to press its subconscious replay button. Whatever occurred in my dreams, I was convinced would happen in real life.
I nervously glanced over my shoulder half-expecting a monster on my heels. I slouched in school, dreading the impending embarrassment. My bus rides home included imaginations of fatal car accidents involving family. These were my nightmares. They followed me everywhere like a fictitious leech. I couldn’t escape them. So, I decided if I had to live with my nightmares during the day, then I would keep them from grappling me in the night. In my mind it was a guarantee. If I had a nightmare during sleep, it affected my life the following day. I wouldn’t be permissive. I wouldn’t allow the opportunity to arise.
Apart from refusing to shut my eyes once in bed, I avoided my bedroom altogether. I knew if I was to climb into bed, I was one step closer to the pillow of slumber. If I was to even walk across the threshold of my bedroom, I was one step closer to my bed. I had this preconceived idea that sleeping with someone would ward off the demons of the night. Being the second youngest of five children, I did share a room with the baby (hardly the best companion when waking up in a cold sweat). It wasn’t the same. I needed protection.
Just knowing that I would have a nightmare, I stood in the doorway of my sisters’ bedroom and with tears printing wayward trails down my cheeks, I pleaded for permission to sleep with them. They barked at me to go away, saying, “You couldn’t possibly have had a nightmare yet. You didn’t even go to sleep to give it a chance to happen.” They didn’t understand. They just didn’t know. I feared sleep. That was just it. I couldn’t let myself sleep. Sleep was my enemy. In my mind, sleep dined with the night hag. Those nightmares affected my everyday life.
One time, as a seven year old, I heard my mom leave to go grocery shopping. With my nose pressed against the window, I tearfully watched the van drive off. I wanted to be with her. I had to be with her. A couple nights before, I had a bad dream of her being in a car accident. I sat at the window, bawling, completely sure that my nightmare was bound to be made true. To me, my mother wasn’t safe until she was home where I could see her.
As I became older, my monsters developed. Grisly monstrosities wereno longer chasing me. I was now a paralytic to failure, to being the object of ridicule, to losing friends. All my extant fears played out in the dark of sleep. They still do sometimes. I find myself avoiding confrontations. I won’t look at a grade on some paper for fear of failure. I divert from embarrassing possibilities. I fear the worst because I have dreamt the worst. Although I don’t recall dreams as often, the night demons still tackle me from time to time. In my world of delusion, I have had to force myself to remember the fine line between imaginary and reality.
I don’t mean any disrespect by my title. It’s just that it adequately explains how I’m feeling, and how fitting seeing that I am a military spouse. I’m typically a silver-lining type of girl; almost always have been. I sometimes drive my husband crazy because I ALWAYS have to find the positive in everything and everyone. There are people who always “have it worse,” which is why I do my best to stay upbeat. Also, God has blessed me so incredibly much. But, sometimes my positive drive runs dry. I guess this is one of those times.
Have you ever cried so much that you have no more tears to cry? You just feel absolutely and utterly dry. You still feel the pain, but nothing comes out. I looked at the month of March as an exciting new month, but it brought more challenges than I ever anticipated. I won’t go into some of them, because they are personal. I guess I just didn’t anticipate what God was going to allow our little family to go through. We got hit with illness after illness, which I can handle. But, what I really didn’t expect was that in one fell swoop, something that started out as positive became negative before the swing came to an end.
What I’m referring to is my recent miscarriage. No, I’m not talking about our baby Andrew’s death; I’m talking about another little angel. This month we found out that I was pregnant again. You can imagine how excited we were! We kind of considered this little baby as a miracle. He/she was the quiet in our storm. Our hearts had been aching so badly for another baby, and we felt like God had answered our prayerful desires. But, the excitement was short-lived. Less than a week later, I miscarried. I tried to reason that maybe I really hadn’t been pregnant and that my hormone levels had just been out of whack. But, the staff in the ER was efficient and showed me that I indeed had been pregnant and that it wasn’t just my hormone levels.
I didn’t cry. I tried to pretend I was okay. My husband and I went on the rest of our day as if it were a normal one. By the next night, I couldn’t pretend anymore. We couldn’t pretend anymore. We both fell into each other’s arms and cried. I just remember saying, “I don’t understand,” over and over again. Why would God do this again? Why would He allow us to know we were pregnant and then take it away just like that?
People try telling me, “Well, at least you weren’t as far along.” That doesn’t mean I didn’t love this baby just as much. Our little angel is in heaven right now, and he or she doesn’t have a name. You don’t know how much that pains me! I want this little one to have a name. What does bring me comfort is that God is watching over both our angels now. I imagine Andrew and our miracle baby have sat in Jesus’s lap as He told them how much their mommy and daddy love them.
I know that this happens to so many people and that I should be grateful that I can get pregnant. I am extremely grateful for that and for our little son that we do have. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not scared. I find myself wondering if we’ll be able to have more children. My husband and I so badly want another baby. I know that God knows what is best for us and everything happens in His time. Sometimes I’m just terrified as to what His will might be.
I used to be afraid to tell God what I think or how I’m really feeling. But, the more I’m learning in His word and through other reading, I’m finding that He wants to hear us no matter what we are feeling. He wants us to talk to Him, because He does care. In the book, “Heaven Is For Real,” Colton’s father talks about how he ranted and raved at God over the trials his family was experiencing, and through his son, finds out that God personally answered his ranting prayers. I guess I used to always assume that it wasn’t good to rant at God; that it was almost a sin. But, God wants to hear those rants. He recognizes that we hurt, and He doesn’t expect us to hide it and pretend. One night, days after my miscarriage, my husband and I had a disagreement. I went outside to cool off and found myself ranting . . . at God. I went on and on about how frustrated I was and that I didn’t understand what God was doing in our lives. I told him that I was feeling dry and tired, inside and out. Minutes later, random raindrops began to fall. It was as if God was telling me He heard me. He was bringing rain to my oh so dry desert. I then started crying, and tears eventually turned to peace. For the first time this month, an immense peace washed over me. I felt as though God was embracing me.
I’m not going to understand why things happen. I will go through dry periods. I will have desert storms. But, God is faithful. He will always bring the rain.
Here I am again, feeling overwhelming loneliness. Yet, this pain is far greater, for I’m without the man I waited so long for. I go each day longing for the warmth of his hand in mine, for the touch of his loving embrace. It’s amazing how such a time apart makes you appreciate every little thing. I miss the mischievous way he laughs when he’s being silly. I miss waking up before the sun to pack his lunch. I miss him coming up behind me and wrapping his arms around my waist while I cook dinner. I miss praying together as we cuddle in bed, before going to sleep.